Never, perhaps in the history of sports, has single moment embodied the futility of an entire franchise's existence.
Down 6-3 on home ice, in front of a crowd permeated with fans of the opposition, in a series and playoff season that served as a last-ditch opportunity to market the team (or at least go out in a blaze of glory), the Phoenix Coyotes helplessly watched as the final seconds on the clock dissipated, ending the game, their season and likely their existence.
Fifteen years after a relocation from Winnipeg to Phoenix, the NHL has accomplished nothing if not the glorification of failure.
No money, no fans, no success.
If the NHL-owned Coyotes cease to exist when camp starts in September, the adventure in the desert will officially go down both as a financial and recreational disaster. In a culmination of several problems, which reached its peak between 2002 and 2009 when the franchise missed the playoffs six straight seasons, lack of funds prevented the Coyotes from featuring consistent rosters, developing a fan base and ultimately generating revenue.
But even back-to-back winning seasons in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 weren't enough to attract a consistent audience. In fact, numbers dipped over that span: Phoenix's average attendance during its 13th place Western Conference finish in 2008-2009 (14,875) was greater than the average in both of the past two seasons (11,989; 12,208, respectively).
It doesn't matter how good the product is; residents of Glendale, Arizona aren't buying.
The NHL will do all it can to all it can to keep the franchise from relocating, but are simply delaying the inevitable. The business side of hockey comes first, and Phoenix is never going to be a hockey market.
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